SHAVERTOWN, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Temporary release. That’s the order Friday from Governor Wolf telling the Department of Corrections to transfer qualifying inmates to home confinement or community corrections facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Governor Wolf says the idea is to minimize the spread of the coronavirus in state prisons.
As of Friday morning there are 11 COVID-19 cases reported. All at SCI Phoneix in Montgomery County, which is one of Pennsylvania’s hot zones.
Pittston resident, George Gilroy says he feels, “most people in Pennsylvania feel they should all stay in prison.”
Gov. Wolf calls the order a “Temporary Program to Reprieve Sentences of Incarceration”
New York resident, Brianna Davidson, says “I feel like it’s a good choice.”
The order authorizes the early release of up to 1,800 inmates from Pennsylvania state prisons.
“Right now it’s an inhumane way of serving your time, but you deserve what you get for the crime you did,” says Gilroy.
“If they are trying to save people that are in there now with it, then that would stop it but like you know no body really cares about people that’s in jail,” says Davidson.
The plan allows the release of inmates serving time for nonviolent offenses who are within 9 months of scheduled release or within 12 months for those considered at heightened risk from the coronavirus.
Gilroy adds, “I feel the people that are of age, a certain age and older should be released. Mainly because of their immune system to this is very weak.”
Davidson explains her opinion by stating, “it’s not like it’s sex offenders and the murderers because that would be really bad for the community and people wouldn’t think positively of it.”
Pennsylvania’s 21 state prisons hold about 45,000 inmates.
Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association President Larry Blackwell responds to the governors plan with a statement saying, “it’s unfortunate the state doc didn’t listen to our repeated requests to stop prison transfers in Pennsylvania. While the rest of the state was in lockdown, the doc was moving prisoners. We believe this had an impact on the spread of COVID-19 within our state system.”
Gilroy says, “they are also spreading a disease in there too, killing other people, possibly the guards, they’re getting infected too just by being with them.”
According to the governor’s office, the releases, to halfway houses or home confinement, could start as early as Tuesday.
The department of corrections will discuss each eligible inmate with the courts, the state attorney general’s office and county district attorney’s offices—taking the victim’s into consideration as well.
Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania praised governor wolf’s decision to include protections for victims in his executive order.
However, the organization remains concerned that victims may be overlooked if prisoners are released at the county level without proper protections for victims in mind.
Upon expiration of the order individuals would be returned to prison to complete any remaining portion of their sentences.